I surrender.

Many years ago, I set myself a simple task. I would create a blog layout for myself, and it would have some sort of color in it. It would not simply be a white background.

After all, the best way to learn something is to force yourself to do it, right?

Unfortunately, I failed. The resulting design could be charitably described as "quirky" and accurately described as "ugly". What's more, the design you may have seen was the best of at least a dozen or so attempts! It turns out I can take a very sensible and aesthetic design from a standard template site, and in three small changes, utterly destroy it.

I think what finally tipped me into giving up was a recent experience at work. After implementing a serviceable-but-utilitarian interface for a particular project, my boss told me and a designer at work that it really needs to look a lot nicer, and I've got about 24 hours to do it. To be clear, this was acknowledged to be a bit of a short-notice request and it wasn't a "job on the line" request or anything, but still, it was important.

In 24 hours, all I could have done would be to iterate through the equivalent of perhaps 2 or 3 of the aforementioned dozen designs I tried on this blog.

In three hours flat, the designer completely reworked the interface into something that looked great. Perhaps not "amazing",but you looked at it and just got that good feeling, like, this is something put together by a professional. It got scattered oohs and ahhs from the ~75 people in attendance when it was unveiled, and there's certainly nothing I could have done to get that effect.

It's time to face up to the fact that I'm just not going to ever have that level of skill, nor anything approximating it. It's time to write off color design.

What remaining traces of color there are on this site are now just holdovers from the old design that happened to work in this context, so hey, they can come along. But welcome aboard, off-white background and plain text.

Dec 07, 2011

(A not-quite twitterable bug report for @Netflixhelps:) Setting family controls on the XBox 360 (system-level preference) to G correctly causes unrated content or content rated higher than G to display the locked-out icon. In the previous version, navigating to one of them and pressing A would prompt for the family password, then unlock all the covers. You'd have to enter the family code again to watch. In this version, if you navigate to a locked folder and press A, you get the family code entry, but upon successful entry you immediately begin watching the selected video. There appears to be no way to unlock the covers. Combined with the new delay before showing the name of the video at the bottom of the screen and it has become very frustrating to navigate.

As a proper bug report:

  1. On a running XBox, press the XBox button on the controller to bring up the 5-pane menu (that has not changed in this update). Press right twice to get to "Settings" and enter Family Settings.
  2. Turn Content Controls "On".
  3. Create a passcode on this screen.
  4. In Ratings and Content, set the Movie and TV rating to PG and TV-PG.
  5. Save and Exit
  6. Go to the Netflix Application.
  7. Find a cover that is locked out and select it. (There should be plenty around.)
  8. Press A and enter the family code correctly.

Expected result: All locked-out covers unlock and become visible, no videos start. Family code entry still required to begin a video (though I would not be upset if that was no longer necessary).

Actual result: The chosen video begins playing immediately.

You can email me at jerf@jerf.org if you need more information, though I don't check that very often.

About Jeremy Bowers
Apr 15, 2011

jerf.org is a website where I partition off the part of my life that makes for boring real-life conversation. In real life, you can go a very long time without hearing me ramble about politics or the other things I go on about on this website. Going on about those things is the entire purpose of this website, whereas my music, TV, work life, and family life are saved for real life. (Though my wife has started a family blog.)

Read the rest (1395 words)

Aug 01, 2008

By popular demand ("this one guy asked for it once"), I've added a post index to iRi. (Also, Google has lost a lot of my pages, which sucks mostly because I keep trying to use it on my own site.)

I tried to implement something like Amazon's Statistically Improbable Phrases, which take characteristic phrases out of books and works pretty well, but my corpus is too small. There are many words I use only once, and the vast majority of two-word phrases are entirely unique. Consequently, I use only single words, and even that works poorly.

While I failed in my goal, I decided the result was pleasantly surrealistic, so I kept it in anyhow. Word-based algorithms are so much fun sometimes, even when they completely fail. It's quirky and I know it. It really loves to highlight misspellings, for instance.

(Also, the process runs once a day, so for instance this post won't be there right away. That's OK.)

I had the original calendar-based archiving system initially, but I just don't think that works very well for weblogs. Who wants to go to "March 20, 2002"? It certainly doesn't work well with less than a post per day.

HTML on iRi
Feb 03, 2007

Comments and other text you can post on iRi use standard HTML, with some helpful additions. I'll start with a quick primer on HTML, then tell you what you can use on iRi.

iRi uses HTML despite the fact it's not the easiest language, because it's the only standard language you may be able to carry your knowledge of elsewhere; see Please Stop with the HTML Replacements for more on that.

In the simplest case, you can just type text in paragraphs and it will work. The Preview will show you how it will look, and unless you encounter a problem with special characters like & or <, or you want to add some formatting, that should be fine.


HTML is based around the idea of tags, which can label text. For instance, I made the word "tags" italic by adding <i> to the front of "tags", and </i> to the end. The first tag "opened" the italics, and adding the slash to the front of the tag "closed" the tag.

Tags should be closed in the reverse order they were opened. <b><i>text</i></b> is legal, <b><i>text</b></i> is not. iRi will make your HTML legal, but that may not do what you intend.

Simple Tags

For each of these tags, surround the text in the tag as shown in the example.

Non-simple Tags

Links are done with the a tag, using the href attribute:

<a href="http://your.link/here.html">Link Text</a>

You can also use abbr and acronym with the title attribute.

This is not a complete list of permitted tags. iRi is pretty permissive. (No img tags for you, though.)

Entities (<, >, and &)

There is something in HTML called an entity, which is how HTML allows you to use special characters in HTML, including the characters special to HTML. If you use a <, >, or & character in a way that is not valid HTML, iRi will try to guess whether you meant to use the entity instead, but it is impossible to always guess correctly. You may need to explicitly replace < with &lt;, > with &gt;, or & with &amp;.

You can also use all defined HTML entities such as &trade; (™), but you can also use Unicode in your posts, and that is probably preferable for Unicode characters. (In fact such characters get converted to Unicode entity references, like &#8482; for &trade;.


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